Lia Thomas, the first out transgender woman to secure an NCAA swimming championship, has officially launched a legal challenge against World Aquatics.
According to a report from The Telegraph last week, Thomas initially lodged the dispute with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland back in September.
Thomas filed a dispute against the international regulatory body that oversees competitive swimming events after it voted to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women’s competitions.
Thomas’s legal challenge aims to challenge World Aquatics’ policy implemented in June 2022 which imposed restrictions on transgender women participating in women’s swimming events unless they underwent transition before the age of 12.
The American swimmer’s legal team has argued that the policy is discriminatory and violates several governing principles, including the Olympic Charter, the World Aquatics Constitution, and various human rights laws such as the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
World Aquatics executive director Brent Nowicki responded to Thomas’ filing to defend the current gender inclusion policy in a statement on Thursday, declaring that the rules had been “rigorously developed on the basis of advice from leading medical and legal experts” and “in careful consultation with athletes”.
“World Aquatics remains confident that its gender inclusion policy represents a fair approach, and remains absolutely determined to protect women’s sport,” Nowicki said.
The former University of Pennsylvania swimmer has not competed since 2022. While she hopes to compete in the upcoming Paris Olympics, her unregistered status with US Swimming raises doubts about her case being heard before the start of the Summer Games on July 26.
Last year World Aquatics created an “opeyn category” for swimmers at a World Cup event in Berlin which featured 50m and 100m in all swimming strokes, in addition to the men’s and women’s competitions. However, the category was quickly scrapped when it failed to collect any entries.
The governing body issued a statement, which read, “World Aquatics can confirm that no entries have been received for the open category events”.
Director of policy and programs for Athlete Ally Danne Diamond, criticised World Aquatics’ transgender policy, stating that the restrictions caused “profound harm to trans women, who are particularly vulnerable in society and suffer from high rates of violence, abuse, and harassment in society and in sport”.
“The ban is not a fair, proper or reasonable balancing of rights. It is grossly disproportionate and has the effect of excluding virtually all trans women athletes from interns aquatics,” Diamond told CNN.
A date for the hearing has yet to be scheduled.